Iran General NewsBBC an arm of MI6, says police chief of...

BBC an arm of MI6, says police chief of Iran

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ImageThe Times: Iran’s police chief has accused the BBC of being an arm of MI6 and warned of severe punishment for any Iranians in contact with the organisation. The Times

Catherine Philp

ImageIran’s police chief has accused the BBC of being an arm of MI6 and warned of severe punishment for any Iranians in contact with the organisation.

General Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, whose police forces have played a key role in the government crackdown on protesters since the disputed presidential election last June, was quoted by the IRNA news agency as saying that opposition activists had co-operated with the BBC and the Voice of America (VOA) “with the aim of weakening and overthrowing the system”.

“The BBC is the arm of MI6, and VOA belongs to the CIA,” he said. “Those who co-operate with foreign services through transmitting photos, reports, news and anti-revolutionary actions . . . should know that all their actions are monitored. We will settle accounts with them when the time comes.”

Tehran has repeatedly accused Britain and the US of fuelling the country’s post-election unrest. It also frequently accuses its opponents of being in league with the country’s enemies.

Tehran has been particularly riled by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s funding, to the tune of £15 million, of the BBC’s Persian-language television service launched last year. Jon Leyne, the BBC’s Tehran correspondent, was expelled in June after being accused of fomenting riots and staging a shooting attributed to the Basij state militia.

Voice of America, which also broadcasts Persian-language television and radio to Iran, is directly funded by the US Congress.

Few foreign correspondents are now granted visas to Iran and, when they are admitted, are forbidden from attending opposition protests like the one that erupted into bloodshed in December on the Shia festival of Ashura.

More than 60 journalists are now among the several hundred people who have been rounded up and detained pending their “show trials”. As a result, much of the information and images about the protest movement in Iran is coming from Iranian citizen journalists.

General Moghaddam also vowed to crush possible opposition protests expected during celebrations for the Persian new year next month.

The so-called Green Movement suffered a setback this month when it failed to mobilise enough protesters to challenge simultaneous proregime rallies on the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. The regime had sent a powerful warning to would-be protesters days earlier when it executed two dissidents and sentenced two more to death.

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